Faculty Mentor

Kevin R. Criswell, Ph.D.

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Introduction: Lung cancer is the second-most common cancer for males and females and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Ninety percent of lung cancer cases are associated with a smoking history. Less is known about (a) how lung cancer survivors with and without smoking histories attribute their cancer to secondhand smoke and (b) how those attributions may be associated with personal responsibility, regret, and stigma from medical staff/professionals. This secondary data analytic study examined 196 lung cancer survivors.

Method: Paper surveys included (a) whether secondhand smoking caused their cancer, (b) whether they perceived control over that cause, and (c) whether they expended effort towards avoiding that cause. Independent samples t-tests were used to examine mean differences between ever and never smoking groups on attribution questions and correlations were used to examine associations between attribution questions and personal responsibility, regret, and medical blame. Significance was set to p < .05.

Results: Survivors with a smoking history attributed the cause of their cancer to their smoking. Those without a smoking history reported expending greater effort to avoid secondhand smoke. Effort to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke was negatively associated with personal responsibility and regret in those without a smoking history.

Discussion: This study fills a gap in the literature by reporting the attribution and personal responsibility for causing their cancer in lung cancer survivors without a smoking history. Results suggest that survivors with no smoking history may attribute cause of their cancer to others smoking around them.


Original data collection supported by a grant from the Lance Armstrong Foundation, awarded to Dr. Andrea Thornton (City of Hope).

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.